You are on page 1of 7

GEORGE HARRISON TRIBUTE: OUT OF THE SHADOWS

By Alan L. Chrisman
George Harrison passed away on Nov. 29, 2001. This is a tribute to his music and
my personal memories of him. George was always the third Beatle. The order
was John, Paul, George, and Ringo. George and Ringo always had to compete
with the considerable talents (and egos) of Lennon and McCartney. He was also
called the Quiet Beatle (although people who knew him said he wasn’t always so
quiet, especially about his later religion). He also became known as the spiritual
Beatle. Paul had introduced his young guitar-playing friend, George, to John and

he became part of John’s teenaged band, The Quarrymen.

George was the youngest Beatle, three years younger than John, and John still
always saw him like almost a younger brother. John and Paul got most all the
songs on early Beatles’ albums, but without George’s always tasteful and fitting
guitar leads their songs, wouldn’t have been the same. His first composition
finally shows up on their 2nd album (with a typical George statement, “Don’t
Bother Me”.) He gradually gets more song writing space on succeeding albums.
It is not only with his growingly confident song writing, but he also begins to
influence the kind of music they will make. Through his friendship with Dylan
and The Band, he helps move them towards folk-rock on Rubber Soul (“ Think For
Yourself”) and eastern music and instruments on John’s “Norwegian Wood”, and
on Revolver (“Love You Too”, “I Want To Tell You” as well as “Taxman”) and on
Sgt. Peppers his “Within and Without You”.
But it isn’t until The White Album in 1968 that he becomes noticed with the songs,
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Piggies “,” Long Long Long” and “Savoy
Truffle”. Then on Abbey Road, for the first time, it’s not a Lennon/McCartney
double-sided single, but his magnificent “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun” ,
which stand out with Lennon’s “Come Together” and they become hits. Now
Lennon and McCartney and the world can no longer ignore his song-writing
prowess. But it’s too late, George is anxious to go out on his own, out of the
shadow of his bandmates and The Beatles break up. Everyone thought John and

Paul would be the most likely to survive. But in 1971, George releases his 3Lp set
All Things Must Pass and it outsells his mentors, especially with his religious/pop
smash, “My Sweet Lord” and the rockin’, “What is Life”. But the album contains
many more great songs too.
He’s also produced several Beatles’ Apple record label artists like Billy Preston,
Badfinger, Doris Troy, Jackie Lomax, etc. He also co-wrote, “Badge”, for the band
Cream with his good friend, Eric Clapton, and you can hear George’s very
distinctive guitar-sound on it. He had become by this time, a quite accomplished
slide-player as well. In 1971, George organizes The Concert for Bangladesh for his
friend, Ravi Shankar with superstars, Dylan, Clapton, Leon Russell, etc., the first
real rock charity event, which all future ones will try to emulate. The next year it is
released as a 3- album set.
In 1973, George records, what to me, is an equally quality album (a condensed
version of All Things Must Pass’s 3Lp’s perhaps), Living in the Material World with
its hit’s, “Give Me Love, Give Me Peace” and “Sue me, Sue You Blues”. He didn’t
seem to miss The Beatles at all. Although, he was a guest on John’s “Imagine”,
especially the slide on John’s biting dig at Paul, ”How Do You Sleep” and co-wrote
the great “Photograph “ and produced the singles, “Back off Boogaloo” and “It
Don’t Come Easy” for Ringo. He continued to release the solo albums, Dark Horse
and Extra Texture in ’74 and ’75. In ’76, he recorded, what I think, is also one of
his best albums, 33 & 1/3, with “Crackerbox Palace” and his answer to being
accused of stealing the chords of “ My Sweet Lord” from the Chiffon’s song, “He’s
So fine”- “This Song”.
He also became at this point, a film producer and produced with his new
Handmade Films for his comedy friends, Monty Python, their Life of Brian. In’75
he does some songs for the soundtrack to their popular, Time Bandits. In 1978,
he joined his Monty Python friend, Eric Idle, in a very funny satire of his old band,
The Beatles, The Rutles, and even appears disguised in their film, All You Need Is
Cash.
In 1979, he releases another quite solid album, simply called George Harrison with
the song, ”Not Guilty”, leftover from his Beatles’ White Album days. But the

album also contains the great songs, “Blow Away”, “Love Comes to Everyone” (
with Clapton on guitar) and what I think is one of his most beautiful songs and
guitar work, “Your Love is Forever”. On his next album, Somewhere in England,
he includes his moving tribute song to John Lennon, “All Those Years Ago” (“you
said it all when you said ‘all you need is love’, buy not many had ears”). In 1980,
he wrote and released an “autobiography” (which barely mentioned The Beatles
or John Lennon, which Lennon said hurt him). In 1987, Harrison had another
excellent album, Cloud Nine, with the big hits, produced by ELO’s Jeff Lynne, “ Got
My Mind Set On You”( which he didn’t write), but did the summing up of The
Beatles’ with, “When We Was Fab”.
In 1998, he again forms a one–off superstar get-together band with Dylan, Jeff
Lynne, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison, under the name the Traveling Wilbury’s and
they record two successful albums with hit songs. In 1995, he and the other two
surviving Beatles reworked two of John’s songs from his Dakota days, “Free As A
Bird” and “Real Love””, produced by Lynne, in conjunction with the massively
popular Beatles Anthology records and videos, which helped a whole new
generation to rediscover them

.

FUL L

Above: FULL CIRCLE: Ringo, Paul & George get together to work on John’s songs for Beatles’
Anthologies, 1995

In December 1999, a mentally-disturbed intruder broke into Harrison’s home and
attacked him causing over 40 knife wounds. He recovered, but it, no doubt,
speeded up his health problems as he had been diagnosed with lung cancer the
year before and it returned. On Nov. 29, 2001, he passed away. Paul and Ringo
saw him shortly before his death. Paul said George “didn’t suffer fools gladly”.
His ashes were released into India’s rivers, in accordance with his spiritual beliefs.
His last album the excellent, Brainwashed, was completed after his death, by his
son, Dhani and Jeff Lynne, in 2002.
So it was quite a life for a Liverpool lad who had admired rockabillly’s Carl Perkins
and guitarist, Chet Atkins. He helped create those special Harrison guitar leads on
most of the Beatles’ songs and then became his own excellent songwriter as a
Beatle and later as a solo artist. Surprising many observers, who wondered if he
would be able to compete with his own renown once-band mates, he became
loved for his guitar playing and his own songs and respected for his spiritual
beliefs. George Harrison had finally come out from under The Beatles’ immense
shadow and created his own giant shadow.
I was fortunate to see Harrison perform in 1974 in Montreal. Billy Preston
opened the show (Ravi Shankar was supposed to appear, but had to cancel
because he was sick). I was in the cheap seats behind the stage and Harrison
turned around, so we could see him too. We actually got a closer-up look than the
more expensive section. He wouldn’t play any of the other Beatles’ songs, except
he did Lennon’s “In My Life”. His guitar playing on “While My Guitar Gently
Weeps” was, I remember, better than Clapton’s version on the White Album. I’ve
thought Harrison was always underrated as a guitar player, especially his slideguitar work.
Another Harrison story is, his sister, Louise, was a guest at our 2nd Ottawa
Beatles Convention I organized. There Louise told a little-known story about how
when she was living in a small Illinois town (not far from where my parents live),
George came to visit her there. The Beatles were still unknown in America,
George was coaxed to get up and jam with a local band one night. One of the
band members told George, “You’re not bad, if you keep practicing, you might

get somewhere”. This was only a few months before The Beatles would appear
on the Ed Sullivan Show the next Feb, 1964 and everyone would know them!
When George passed away, I got a call from The Liverpool Echo (I don’t know
how they got my record store in Canada’s phone number ). They wanted to know
what my reaction was to his death. I said he was the most spiritual Beatle and
people loved him for that and his songs and playing. I was also interviewed by the
local media, and was sad, like with John’s too early death.

Above: George Harrison passes, Nov. 29, 2001 and Liverpool Echo newspaper and local media
call Alan Chrisman for his reaction

See one of George’s most beautiful songs and playing, “Your Love Is Forever”:
http://youtu.be/3w6RHr2xLMk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w6RHr2xLMk

Watch Tribute video to both George and John, with George’s, “All Those Years
Ago”
http://youtu.be/Z7bBLE1EAIw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7bBLE1EAIw&feature=youtu.be